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Published on June 16, 2020

couple camping sitting in front of motorhome

How To Travel Smartly – and Safely – This Summer

Summer travel will not be the same as years’ past, but that doesn’t mean enjoyment is impossible.

“The tone of restrictions and warnings has changed, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also changed their guidance,” said Avera Medical Group physician David Basel, MD, who also serves as Avera Medical Group Clinical Quality Vice President. “If you’re going to venture out, do so with a plan in mind and remember to follow the guidelines about masks, distancing, hand hygiene and other measures that can keep you protected.”

Stay Informed and Plan Your Route

Many of the basic recommendations that everyone’s learned over the last few months apply to travel as well. Do not travel if you are sick, and if someone in your family’s ill, it’s best to postpone.

“Keeping an eye on reports of community spread in your area, along your route or in the destination city is a good idea,” said Basel. “There are areas that are flaring up and areas where the virus is still smoldering, and if you can avoid them, you’ll be better off.”

While “stay-cations” might not satisfy your desire to explore, guidelines still encourage everyone to stay home as much as possible, especially if you are at higher risk of severe illness. Look into closer-to-home possibilities, like hiking trails, picnic destinations or scenic drives.

“If we consider the risks and what we can control, we’ll be safer. Camping is a much better choice than a concert,” Basel said. “Travel in a car with family or a small group of friends is much better than air travel. You cannot keep social distance onboard an airplane or while you wait in a security line before boarding.”

You might be asked by your employer to self-quarantine for 14 days if you do travel by air, so check with your company’s policy before you buy tickets.

Protect Yourself and Others

Frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, is still recommended as a step to reduce the chances of spreading coronavirus.

“You should wash hands after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, too, and if soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer,” said Basel. “Sanitizers with about 60% alcohol, are best, and be sure to cover all surfaces of your hands and rub your hands together until they feel dry.”

Wherever you go, always cover a cough or a sneeze with your sleeve or better yet, a tissue. Avoid touching your face, and limit close contact with others.

“We want to remind all groups who are higher risk to be especially careful about avoiding close contact,” Basel said. “That would include people 65 and older, those with chronic conditions and others who may have compromised immune systems.”

The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public. Dining on the road is a fun part of the trip, but drive-through and curbside pickup is safer than dining in. If you do decide to eat in a diner or restaurant, stay 6 feet away from others.

“You can bring alcohol wipes and wipe down any areas you use during the trip, and if you’re staying in a hotel overnight, make sure to wash your hands prior to entering your room, because you likely have touched doorknobs, elevator buttons and other high-touch surfaces,” said Basel.

Flexibility is Safety

Be alert for symptoms of COVID-19, especially a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath. If you experience any of them, be ready to curtail your travel and get home – or get help.

“I would encourage anyone to call their health care provider if they notice any signs of the COVID-19 virus. Make sure to pack a thermometer along with your other travel essentials,” said Basel. “Keeping yourself healthy – with hydration, good rest, nutritious food and moderate alcohol use are all helpful in the overall effort to avoid illnesses, including the pandemic we're facing now.”

Basel said if you do develop symptoms, go home, call your provider and follow the directions offered.

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